Council member launches pilot program to help equip East Austin with COVID-19 resources

African-Americans make up seven percent of the Austin population, however, they represent nine percent of COVID-19 cases. That's a little more than their share of the population.

“African-American, Hispanic, and low-income residents are at far greater risk when it comes to COVID-19,” said Natasha Harper-Madison, Austin City Council member for District One.

Harper-Madison, a Lupus survivor, said little access to healthcare, transportation access, and even pre-existing conditions often plague her constituents.

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"Up until a couple weeks ago, we were struggling to get community clinics that had been closed in the eastern crescent reopened. Almost two weeks to the day we were struggling to get testing locations on the east side,” she said.

She just launched a pilot program to try and get information to residents in her district.


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“What we are attempting to do is reach residents, boots on the ground, and get an immediate real-time community needs assessment. We are asking them questions like: How many people are in your household? What are their ages? Are their students who live here? Do they have access to the devices that they need?” said Harper-Madison.

She wants to take their information and match them with appropriate resources. “We also know these communities can be harder to reach than without normal channels, Next Door, emails, websites, et cetera,” she said.

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Harper-Madison wants her district’s residents to be armed with information as businesses slowly reopen in Central Texas. “We can pretty much project how it's going to play out in Austin, especially with us relaxing any sheltering and staying safe working from home protocol,” she said.

The council member is hoping to roll out the program citywide if the pilot goes well.

“It just really highlights why it's absolutely imperative that we saturate East Austin with this life and death information about the pandemic. Beyond that, we have to find out what people's needs are,” she said. 


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